Nearly 20 years ago, CNN interviewed Darien Dash to find out more about his approach to the economic realities of African American markets and Hispanic markets. He saw a gap in the technology capabilities within these communities and created a program that provides web design, e-commerce, content, and more. When he started, only 5 million African Americans had gone online, compared to 41 million white Americans with access to the internet. These numbers have dramatically improved with the Pew Research Center reporting 80% of black Americans to use the internet compared to 87% of white Americans.
African Americans represent 14% of the US population (over 47 million) and have a buying power over $1.3 trillion, according to the Pew Research Center. Today, over 54% of African Americans “have lived their entire life in the digital age.”
Dash vowed to close the digital divide 20 years ago and he has made great strides in doing so.
During the interview, 70% of black Americans didn’t have a PC in their home. In today’s households, 90% of black Americans live in a household with a smartphone and internet access.
The Importance of Doing Good
Dash told CNN, “Imagine that 10 years from now, everything you buy is either going to be bought with a credit card or it’s going to be bought online. And if you don’t have a credit card and you’re not online, then you’re not going to be able to participate in this economy.”
His insight went beyond an entrepreneurial vision of a gap in the market. Dash saw a genuine need in the community and worked to help close it. He is considered a great entrepreneur, philanthropist, and activist. He is CEO of The Movement Management Firm, where he offers financial support and business strategies to a wide range of clients.
From the very start, Dash saw the value in putting the interest of the client above his own business interest. In that same interview, he stated: “There’s been a saying that’s been popping over the last year, especially since the whole digital divide issue has come about called doing good while you do well.” Dash told Billboard, “We want people to learn how to use this technology effectively, so they can be successful and change their lives. “
The History of Darien Dash
Darien Dash has had a long, hard road of success. His cousin was a cofounder of Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Record label where they teamed up as managers. After graduating from college, he worked as a new media marketing consultant for Fortune 500 companies. While working for Digital Music Xpress (DMX), he saw the gap that ignored minority clientele. He realized these opportunities to get into the technology wave were going to pass his community by quickly if he didn’t act.
He told CNN, “This is the revolution that’s not being televised. This is the opportunity you all got to wake up, stand up, and participate in, otherwise, we’re going to be lost forever. If this doesn’t happen, if we don’t participate in technology, there’s no coming back for us.”
His move to create his own company that focused on the minority target audience was driven from seeing this group ignored by the technology industry. He funded his goal by offering technology consulting for larger groups, like the New York Knicks or HBO home video.
The flyers, posters, and stickers he used to create attention carried slogans like: “Our thing is, get connected, get plugged in, or get shut out.” He counted on community excitement to get things going and focused his efforts on providing education and services. He was on the board of HEAVEN (Helping Educate, Activate, Volunteer, and Empower via the Net), which was a nonprofit in New York that taught computer skills to black teens. He went on to participate in boards for The National Urban League, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America, and many more.
Darien Dash Remains Relevant
Things may have improved in some ways, but the values Darien Dash promoted in 2000 still hold true. He wanted upcoming professionals to think about how they were going to impact their community for good. Rather than focus on the dollar, the entrepreneur must see the larger picture and keep the focus on impact. Who will be affected and how will it improve their lives?
Early connections meant Dash could have settled for a career making millions in the music industry. But as early as 1990, Dash realized: “the game was rapping, being an entertainer, or going into sports. There is nothing wrong with that, but they’re saturated businesses. When you’re successful in those games, you’ll end up a multimillionaire. But when you’re successful in the online game, you’re a billionaire.”
He also could have made his career at DMX, but he was very bothered by the way the technology industry ignored black and Hispanic markets. Again, he chose to see the larger picture, “[There is] a trillion-dollar economy just between those two demographics. Continuing to ignore the significance of that buying power just makes sense.”
After more than 30 years in business, his priorities and vision continue to stay relevant.
This same approach continues to drive his business and strategy. He is one of today’s most sought-after strategic advisors for government officials, hedge funds, C-suite executives, banks, entrepreneurs, investors, and professional athletes.
The vision of Darien Dash is now largely focused on the clients he helps as a Marketing Partner with The Movement Management Advisors. He helps clients grow while navigating obstacles they will face. His consultations always examine how a company is adding to the community in order to reach optimal growth. The Movement Management Advisors help identify threats, outline goals, and consider moves towards long term commercial potential.
“My goal is to be able to create a business and to create something within our community that’s sustainable so that when my kids grow up they’ll see the legacy.” – Darien Dash